January 17, 2012

The Stranger You Seek

The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams
2011 Bantam
Finished 1/4/12
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

She is the best fictional female P.I. since Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone. And with its shocking triple-twist climax, this is the best private eye debut since Dennis Lehane's "A Drink Before the War." Grade: A ~ Cleveland Plain-Dealer

Publisher’s Blurb:

In the sweltering heat of an Atlanta summer, a killer is pushing the city to its breaking point, preying on the unsuspecting, writing taunting letters to the media, promising more death. Desperate to stop the Wishbone Killer before another victim meets a shattering end, A.P.D. Lieutenant Aaron Rauser turns to the one person he knows can penetrate a deranged mind: ex-FBI profiler Keye Street.

Keye was a rising young star at the Bureau until addiction derailed her career and her life. Now sober and fighting to stay so, Keye picks up jobs where she can get them: catching adulterers, serving subpoenas, chasing down bailjumpers, and dodging the occasional bullet. With multiple victims, little to go on, and an entire police force looking for direction, the last thing Keye wants is to be pulled into the firestorm of Atlanta’s worst nightmare.

And then it suddenly becomes clear that the hunter has become the hunted – and the stranger she seeks is far closer than she ever dared imagine.

An electrifying thriller debut, The Stranger You Seek introduces a brash, flawed, and unforgettable heroine in a complex, twisting novel that takes readers deep into a sultry Southern summer, a city in the grips of chaos, and a harrowing cat-and-mouse game no reader will ever forget.

Any comparison to Dennis Lehane and I’m sold. But it was Joy’s review that piqued my interest:

Woo hoo! I found myself another series to follow! It's graphic (very Karin Slaughter-like) and on occasion, a bit shocking, and like Slaughter, held together with a solid plot. There were surprising twists and turns, some wit and some interesting characters and relationships, too. (Thoughts of Joy)

Go here to read her complete review.

Williams’ debut thriller kept me up reading very late for a couple of nights and while I recognized a red herring, I was never able to figure out the identity of the killer. Williams’ syntax is a bit off in the opening chapters, and there is one scene that seemed completely irrelevant to the plot, but I enjoyed the characters and loved the ending. I’m looking forward to the next in her line-up: Stranger In The Room (Fall 2012) and Don’t Talk To Strangers (Fall 2013). It’s nice to get in on a series from the beginning!

On the South:

I embraced the South as a child, loved it passionately and love it still. You learn to forgive it for its narrow mind and growing pains because it has a huge heart. You forgive the stifling summers because spring is lush and pastel sprinkled, because November is astonishing in flame and crimson and gold, because winter is merciful and brief, because corn bread and sweet tea and fried chicken are every bit as vital to a Sunday as getting dressed up for church, and because any southerner worth their salt says please and thank you. It’s soft air and summer vines, pine woods and fat homegrown tomatoes. It’s pulling the fruit right off a peach tree and letting the juice run down your chin. It’s a closeted and profound appreciation for our neighbors in Alabama who bear the brunt of the Bubba jokes. The South gets in your blood and nose and skin bone-deep. I am less a part of the South than it is a part of me. It’s a romantic notion, being overcome by geography. But we are all a little starry-eyed down here. We’re Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara and Rosa Parks all at once.

On life as a bounty hunter:

In the last couple of weeks I’d picked pieces of glass out of my neck and forearms with tweezers after being shot at by a bail jumper with a pump-action shotgun, been hit in the back of the head by a flying coffee cup, and shot at by an angry skinny woman over a crummy witness subpoena. I’d stumbled on a Wishbone murder scene, wrestled an accountant who sank his teeth into my shoulder, been hurled through the bullet-wounded windshield of my Impala, officially fired, hospitalized, released and handed over to the media, watched my ex-husband on TV dissecting our dysfunctional marriage, watched strangers on TV discussing my rehab and FBI records. And I was getting roses, white roses, from a violent serial offender. Oh joy.

While not for the faint of heart (I was reminded of the gritty nature of the P.J. Tracy, Cody McFadyen, and John Sandford’s series), fans of Janet Evanovich looking for some comic relief will not be disappointed.

Final thoughts: Unpredictable. Humorous. Intelligent. Think Clarice Starling with a hint of Sunny Randall and Stephanie Plum.


  1. As someone who's spent all but 5 years of her life in the South, I can really relate to that paragraph on the South.

  2. Anonymous5:15 PM

    Like Kathy, the paragraph about the South speaks to me as well. Texas kind of straddles the line between the South, the Southwest, and being it's own country. And we like it that way. LOL

    Anyway, I have this book and will get to it soon. I read Joy's review and what attracted me was the comparison to Karin Slaughter, a favorite of mine. Slaughter is brutal in some of her stories but they grab me and don't let go. I always love adding to my list of good series.

    By the way, I don't eat my chicken fried anymore and I never drank my tea sweet, but the description of the peaches. Yes!

  3. I'm all in for this one!! When Joy rated it so high I knew it would be a worthwhile read. She's a tough critic!!

  4. Kathy - I really like that passage and was hoping I didn't offend anyone! :)

    Kay - Isn't it a great passage? I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did. I still have yet to read anything by Slaughter. Once I get caught up on a couple of other series, I'll have to give her a try.

    I love sweet tea. And fried chicken. And peaches. I should've lived in the south longer than I did! Corn is good, but there's nothing like a fresh peach!

    Staci - Joy is a tough critic, isn't she? But she's rarely ever steered me wrong. This is definitely a winner!

  5. "A tough critic," who me?!? :) There's so much I could say in defense of myself, but I'm going to let it go.

    I'm really glad you enjoyed this one, Les! Too bad it wasn't higher than a 4, though. :) And, thanks for the link-love!

    As for Slaughter, I think I've only read 3 of hers, but enjoyed them all.

  6. Oh, Joy. I hope you know I was only teasing! Maybe I'm the tough critic. This came close to being a 4.5/5 read, but the strange syntax and a few odd scenes knocked it down a notch. I have a feeling #2 will be a bit more polished. Until then, I need to get caught up on John Sandford's Prey series and then maybe I'll dive into Slaughter's works.


I may not answer your comments in a timely fashion, but I always answer. Check back soon!